Thursday, July 28, 2011

back to my roots... WAY back

It's important to understand that when I bought the Rabbit, I'd been hanging with the VW crowd for years, who'd been filling my head with how great the old diesel Rabbits were, and how easy they were to work on. I learned the hard way that the old Rabbits (at least to me) were far more difficult to work on than the old diesel Mercedes I'd had. Far lower quality, too.

After I got rid of the Rabbit, I picked up the Impreza, which was a very quick project. I had it at daily driver status in under two weeks of wrenching on it in my spare time. At this point, I had just gotten married (weeks earlier) and didn't have room in my life or wallet for a project. Not that I didn't think about it, occasionally.

Of course, those thoughts came to a screeching halt in August, 2009, when my impeccably reliable 1994 Subaru Legacy decided that it had been reliable for long enough. One day, when leaving the city for my 50 mile commute home, I was sitting in traffic, and thought I saw the temperature gauge creeping up. I got on the highway, and the gauge kept going up. I pulled off at the first exit, and stopped the car on a side street, steam coming out from under the hood and the temperature gauge almost pegged.

I popped the hood and realized immediately that the upper radiator hose had blown. As luck would have it, my wife was with me, and she had a friend who lived close by. She called him, and in a few minutes I had a ride to the nearest Autozone. They had the rad hose in stock, so I bought it and some coolant. Soon (after treating our friend to a dinner as a thank-you), we were back on our way home. To be on the safe side, I decided to replace all the cooling system hoses that weekend and do a coolant flush. I'd done an otherwise complete tune-up on the Legacy weeks earlier and wasn't worried about anything else. I got the hoses, put the car on ramps, changed them, and filled the radiator. Once I had it as full as I could get it, I started the car to bleed the air out of the system.

I never understood what happened, but as I was bleeding the cooling system with the engine running, I heard a distinct metallic "ping" and the engine ground to a violent halt. As I was standing in front of the idling car at the time, this startled me a wee bit. I checked the fluids. All seemed OK. I got in the car, pushed the clutch pedal in, and it started right up. I didn't know what to make of it, so I let the clutch pedal out, and the engine ground to a halt again.

Eventually, I realized that something inside the transmission had given out with the car at idle. Luckily, I was at home in my driveway at the time. Of course, now I had to decide what to do. I mulled it over, and even considered junking the car. Eventually, I decided that I'd try and find a cheap parts car and swap the transmissions myself. I found a running, driving, parts Legacy for $400, and got to work. A few weekends later, and the Subaru was back in action.

By that time, it was late October and I was exhausted. I decided to take a break from projectland for the winter.

Of course, come spring I had the "itch" again and hit Craigslist. After my experience with the Rabbit, I wanted to steer clear of Volkswagens for a while. It's like I usually say - I can only handle one VW's share of problems at one time, and for me, that VW is the Vanagon. So, I started looking for another Mercedes. I chased down a few leads. Most promising to me was a 240D near the Cape which sold before I could get to it.

I also located a 1972 220D out west. The car was in rough shape, but I made an appointment to see it anyway. The asking price was $500, and BOY was the car rough. It had originally been a deep maroon, and looked to have been repainted once in its original color, and then once (poorly) in black. The paint was peeling all over, exposing surface rust. The interior was in pretty good shape, but the floor definitely needed some work. The car did start, and although it hadn't been driven in years, it sounded pretty good.

Still, I had to think about it. I left, thought it over, and shot the seller an offer a few days later. A week or so later, and I was out there with a tow vehicle I'd arranged through Craigslist. The Mercedes, immobile for years, drove on to the trailer under its own power, and off again once we got to the house.

The interior was in pretty nice shape, aside from dry-rotted carpeting, but the exterior needed work. Aside from needing a new oil cooler, the car was intact. The OM615 engine was new to me, but VERY similar to the old OM616 and OM617 engines I was used to. Best part? - 4-speed manual!

So, this was the beginning of the project for me. The car has plenty of issues, but at a buy-in of $250, it satisfies my Mercedeslust and keeps a project within arm's reach for when the daily drivers are behaving themselves. I've done less work than I would have liked in the past year and half, but the car is coming along. As of thsi blog post, the driver's side floor is repaired. Once I'm done with some work currently in progress on the van, I'll mostly be working on the 220D. Plus, I'll be tying my blog posts closer to the actual work and my Youtube page. So stay tuned - there's a lot more interesting Mercedes stuff coming.


  1. This was a steal for $250. I wish I could've found a 116.

  2. For what it's worth, it was good that I got the car so cheap. I ended up finding a lot of rust in the floors. Plus, the car needed a lot of other work. Unfortunately, circumstances forced me to sell the car this past December. But, supposedly the buyer is going to continue the project.